Smallest room not always convenient

John Ward
John Ward
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WARD’S WORLD: By John Ward

I don’t know what it is, but one thing that usually seems to be mentioned on going anywhere like going shopping, dining out, etc, is the state of the toilets found within such places that range from the delightfully refurbished cave with running water, but the plumber will be attending soon, to places you could play tiddlywinks on the floor as it’s so clinically clean, and what it should be like in this day and age.

Recently I went to the rescue of somebody who had locked himself in a toilet cubicle as I stood on one side of the door and basically talked him through the opening process, as the locking mechanism had somehow got jammed, but how does a mere, sliding, low-tech bolt arrangement get jammed?

The answer was quite simple, after a bit of “this and that” being offered in assorted ideas from a small gathering of interested people, who had stopped on after their relief work had been accomplished, as once the door was opened, the problem was that the hinges had collapsed and were forcing the door shut with the weight of the door on the sliding bolt. The gentleman concerned expressed his thanks to everybody present for their various ideas that enabled him to be a free person again.

My mum, test pilot of the people, for the people, used to carry a small pair of pliers and a screwdriver in her handbag in case such a thing should happen to her, as indeed it once did. She was able to unscrew the mechanism of the door from within – her safe cracking skills were not up to much but at loo doors, she was a demon – with a nail file she had with her, and this encouraged her to carry the aforementioned small tools on a “just in case, you never know” basis.

Another facet of the public toilet or similar convenience is the hand-drying arrangements which in my experience have veered from paper towels for drying your hands on to the initiative showed by one gent, who was folding them into a sort of shape or thereabouts as I stood watching him in total fascination. Would he make them into a paper swan? A paper horse? A paper bird? Or a paper... and then he proceeded to stuff them into his shoes as he had holes in the soles. He looked at me and said: “I should get another day or so out of ’em now!” Oh how the elite live, I thought.

Conventional towels have come in assorted shapes, sizes and applications over the years, as in the roller type mounted usually on walls, that you keep pulling down, and as you dry your hands, you pull again and the wet bit threads back into the rear section of the machine . I have seen these open up unexpectedly, or be tugged at so hard that the whole roll falls out and glides across the floor. But with no sign of a well-known puppy to take the end and run off with it, like in the TV advert for soft toilet tissue seems to. From that to a mere, humble nail, banged into the back of the toilet door with the towel hanging on it – no finesse, quite basic of course – but read on.

Years ago I popped into a pub to meet up with assorted people before going on to a prearranged event, and somebody went into the toilet and after a few minutes came out, and pointed out to the landlady behind the bar that there was no towel in the gents’ toilet, at which she dived beneath the bar top and produced a towel for his use in there.

She asked if he could bring it back after use, and explained that the nail it used to reside on had rusted through and so far the brewery had not sent her a new nail through with the beer supplies. So she kept it under the bar because, as she leaned over and told him in a confidential manner: “You never know, anybody might take it and run off with it otherwise”, and perhaps gave a whole new meaning to “making a clean getaway”.

We thought afterwards, collectively, that perhaps the problem might have been the fact she had not given the brewery a part or reference number for the nail, as you didn’t want one too long or, then again, too short of course, as the world seemed obsessed with reference/part numbers nowadays and a nail to hang a towel on can’t be ignored.

We have now progressed, is that the right word? to the wonders of today, as we now have the delights of the electric hand dryer no less that comes in assorted levels of sophistication that range from the basic bang-a-large-button-on-the-front-of-the-machine-and-place- your-hands underneath (in a wet or damp state is recommended to get the full effect from such a device, of course).

The speeds can vary from a slow, child’s-type, whirling windmill, to the back end of an RAF Tornado jet blasting out hot air at an unbelievable rate of knots that could risk scorching your hands if not careful.

There is a motorway services area on the M6 that I must revisit at some point, so I can be reunited with my fingernails as it was so fierce. I was quite lucky to escape so lightly as somebody lost a cuff-link when it shot off and rattled around the area before sliding into the unknown, never to be seen again.

Toilet seats have also changed somewhat and the s-l-o-w closing action of some modern ones can be quite daunting to first-time users who, with the best of intentions, grab the seat and suddenly find, instead of it falling down and making a dull thud, it slowly descends. I was in a toilet area at one function when a worse-for-wear individual went into a cubicle and must have found the seat was in the ‘up’ mode. He obviously pulled the seat forward to get it down and after a few seconds was heard saying: “Come on! I don’t have all night to wait for you to make your mind up, matey!” I made a mental note to look into the possibilities of maybe making a two, or even three, speed lowering toilet seat for those less patient among us.

Years ago a friend was in one establishment and felt the “call of nature”, and wandered into the direction of the toilet and found there was no seat there at all - just the china pan. On going back and inquiring/complaining with the manager, he was given a piece of wood with a large aperture (hole) in it, to be placed over the pan and “carry on”.

On going back he handed the wood over, with aperture still present. “Can’t be too careful these days, now can you?” was the response from the manager, and perhaps it was the bottom line.